Meet Betelhem Dessie, Ethiopia's youngest tech Queen - This Is Africa

Africans rising

Meet Betelhem Dessie, Ethiopia’s leading tech queen

In Ethiopia,19 year-old Betelhem Dessie has quickly risen from a young pioneer to a leading figure in the tech community. She handles five projects and has seven patents to her name.



In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Artificial Intelligence and Bioinformatics research is part of the services rendered by iCog Labs. In July this year, Ethiopia was one of the few countries to host Sophia, “one of the world’s most advanced and perhaps most famous artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robot.” Sophia was at the Information and Communication Technology International Expo in Addis Ababa. Parts of Sophia were assembled in Ethiopia.

Within Ethiopia’s expanding tech industry, 19-year-old Betelhem Dessie has quickly risen and the young pioneer’s star keeps shining bright. Dessie is a project manager at iCog and is “interested in solving people’s problems by using simple yet effective tools.” Dessie started coding when she was ten years old. She said, “I learned informally because I wasn’t able to get classes in coding where I was raised in Harar.”

Read: Namibia to open first robotics school in June for 6 to 13 year olds

Sophia speaking at the AI for GOOD Global Summit, International Telecommunication Union, Geneva in June 2017. Photo: Wiki commons

In Harar, her father’s computer served as part of her training ground for who she is today. She got into video editing, computer maintenance and installing software for mobile phones. Gradually she updated her computer skills and knowledge. Part of Dessie’s mission is to implement projects that play a key role in the development of the community. She focused on the training aspect of coding in order to get more Ethiopian women engaged in such activities. Her foray in tech led her to work on a project with the US embassy called Girls Can Code. Forty girls were trained and created their own projects that could help their communities.

Read: Sophia the Robot is coming to Africa


At her young age, Dessie is running five projects and has obtained seven patents; four of the patents are privately owned by her, while the remaining three are in collaboration with other organisations. One of Dessie’s project, Anyone Can Code (ACC) is in collaboration with iCog Labs. It aims to teach high school students about robotics and coding.

iCog Labs has its mission to advance science and technology for the good of all humanity, with a focus on advanced AI and on the use of cutting-edge technology to help leapfrog Africa into the future.

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